Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What will the missing voters do in future elections?

There should have been about 1 850 000 votes cast in the BC election, instead it was only 1 542 000, that is more than 300 000 fewer people that there should have been voting.

The Liberals are short about 140 000 supporters and the NDP is short about 120 000. Will these people come back in 2013?

The impact of these 260 000 people that have supported the NDP or Liberals and chose not to vote in this election are a huge number. This is more than 3000 votes per riding.

I am trying to figure out how to account for these people in any calculation of an election result for 2013, do I assign more of the support of the parties to the ridings they lost this time? Will these people vote next time?

My current take on things is that the Liberals had a large number of soft supporters stay home because the Liberals under Campbell have moved much too far too the left. If I were to estimate what would happen with that 140 000 people, I can see half of them voting Conservative next time.

My estimate is that the NDP lost a lot of green supporters in this election, people that stayed home and did not vote because the NDP had a very weak and unclear approach to environmental issues. What will these people do in 2013? Will they vote NDP? Not vote again? I have trouble assessing what might happen.

The effect of these 120 000 NDP supporters that did not vote is a bigger impact on the NDP than any vote drain to the Greens - after four elections of the Greens running full slates, the NDP should accept the fact there is a core of people in BC that will not vote NDP but Green. The 120 000 non-voting New Democrats are the single most important group for the party to find and bring back in.

In 2001 the NDP lost more people to not voting that people crossing to the Liberals. The Liberals gained the most in that election from non-voters. In 2005 the NDP did the best in gaining back non-voters from 2001, this had twice the effect than people who voted Liberal in 2001 voting NDP in 2005. Werner Antweiler at the UBC Sauder School of Business has done some interesting work on this.

Looking at the low turn out, it is I think a coincidence that the Liberals and NDP had almost the same levels of bleed of supporters this time. If 1/3 of the Liberals had chosen to vote instead of staying home, the popular vote would have been 47.7% Liberal and 40.9% NDP.

In my assumptions on the election I assumed that turn out would close to 60%. I had built in some assumptions on the level of the NDP support in the election and the raw numbers were close to where they ended, I simply missed the fact that as many people would be staying home on the Liberal side.

So where did the Green voters go? I had expected about 180 000 people to have voted Green, not 124 798 as did. There are some 55 000 Green voters missing. I have no idea what happened to them or where they went. I really have no idea what happened to them. Do you know where the lost 55 000 Green voters are? If they all went to the NDP, then the NDP has a very serious problem because that would indicate their core vote is more like 39% and not 42%.

The best thing any party can do between now and 2013 is to engage the public and get them back to the polls. Time to have fun, do things between elections that are not just politics, time to try something different.

I think a strong positive approach to party building for the next three years could reap huge benefits to anyone that embarked on it. Build a strong grassroots postive time now, not in three and half years.

The Socreds were good at this, the Liberals have been weak with this. The Greens really need to build a big membership, much, much bigger than it has had up until now. The NDP has to make themselves fun and cool, they have to show hope and a clear vision.

Parties also need to focus on building their youth element, get someone in their teens and they will tend to stay with you for decades. Make it fun and they and their friends will come out and get involved.

Engage the public in a positive manner and I believe they will come back to vote in the future.
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